For sixth year running, Ward's Auto has evaluated, over a two month period, the interiors of new and substantially updated vehicles released in the US over the past year.
All up, the industry magazine shortlisted 47 interiors for this year's awards, with seven of the top 10 spots hailing from luxury marques.
Drew Winer, content director at Ward's Auto, defended the publication's choices, saying: "It’s important that the Ward's 10 Best Interiors list include mainstream, affordable vehicles, but the average price of a new vehicle in the US has risen past $33,000 (US$43,000), which is forcing us to reconsider how we define mainstream, affordable vehicles."
In fact, only two vehicles — the Honda Civic and Nissan Maxima — hover around the US$33,000 mark. The average price of the cars, as tested, on this year's list is US$60,156 ($78,400).
Audi TTS — US$58,500 ($76,200)
While the judges were impressed with Virtual Cockpit concept in TT, which eliminates the central infotainment screen in favour of a high resolution multifunction instrument display, they were equally enthralled by the TTS' rich mix of leather, stitching and aluminium.
BMW 7 Series — US$129,245
With the 7 Series, the panel were as impressed by the design and they were the seemingly endless list of features, such as the gesture control, wireless phone charging, and illuminated speaker grates for the Bower & Wilkins sound system.
Cadillac XT5 — US$63,845
The new XT5 replaces the SRX as Cadillac's only sub-Escalade SUV. The judges praised the XT5's "first-rate materials", which include semi-aniline leather, satin-finish wood, microsuede headliner, and metallic accents.
Chevrolet Camaro — US$45,095
The sixth-generation Camaro has not only ditched its Holden Commodore underpinnings, but gained an interior that Ward's says sets "a new standard for an interior in this segment".
This partly down to improved material choices and the incorporation of many more soft surfaces, as well as the available ambient lighting system that provides the driver with 20 different colour choices.
Chrysler Pacifica — US$48,455
The new Chrysler Pacifica replaces the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, and the export-only Chrysler Grand Voyager, but won't be built in right-hand drive. Chrysler's people mover not only has a new name, it also features much richer design and material for the interior.
Just as impressive for the industry publication's assessors were the second and third row Stow 'n Go seats, and the built-in vacuum cleaner in the boot.
Honda Civic — US$27,335
After the critically panned ninth-generation Civic, Honda has come roaring back with a new model that's much larger, more expressive, and an interior the Ward's Auto judges describe as "aesthetically ... spot on".
Lexus RX — US$52,968
The judging panel reasons that this is down to the interior, which is not only well screwed together and richly laid out, but also doesn't neglect its "utilitarian purpose" with its massive boot helped out by second row seats that lie nearly flat.
Mercedes-Benz GLC — US$54,360
The magazine's panel had nothing but kind words for the new GLC's interior, with special praise for the "supremely comfortable" seats up front, the "first rate" high-resolution display in the instrumentation area, and a voice recognition system that works well.
Nissan Maxima — US$38,750
The new Nissan Maxima, the eighth of its name, has a bold exterior and, in the opinion of the magazine, an interior that "makes a brilliant first impression with expert craftsmanship".
Among its more noteworthy elements are its two-tone flat bottomed steering wheel, active noise cancellation and sound enhancement, and its "liquid chrome" trim that variously appears to be either smooth or have subtle weave.
Volvo XC90 — US$84,005
Calling the second-generation XC90's interior a "credit to all thing Swedish", the industry journal was full of for the admiration diagonally grained wood, the Oreffors crystal transmission shifter, the massive tablet-style infotainment interface, and the thoughtful elimination of button clutter.